The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

The official blog of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

Infrastructure building, Lifesaving programs, Management team support

Sunday, October 4, 2015

World Animal Day

The mission of World Animal Day is "TO RAISE THE STATUS OF ANIMALS IN ORDER TO IMPROVE WELFARE STANDARDS AROUND THE GLOBE." On the web site are photos of animals in South America, Africa, and other locales. While there is no doubt that many parts of the world need help in caring for their animals, we need to turn the magnifying glass towards ourselves here in the U.S. and to the treatment of animals in our "shelters."

I'll never forget what an animal control officer said to me years ago when we worked together in a County shelter. Looking around the overcrowded room stuffed with cats in small cages, she said, "We do things here that I'd cite people for in the field." Day after day, unlimited animals were admitted to the shelter, which kept them in a perpetual state of overcrowding, stress, and illness. In time I was able to turn the place around, never forgetting what that ACO -- who took 38 cats home one year to treat them for ringworm, then adopted them out herself -- said. Nothing surprises me today, but back them I was surprised when, again and again, the powers that be over that shelter ignored my concerns, not wanting to limit intake because members of the public might get upset and complain.

All across the U.S. this drama plays out in shelters run by Counties, Cities, and private nonprofits. With intakes from a few hundred to tens of thousands, every day shelters accept dogs, cats, and other animals into their system. Without proactive programs to prevent unwanted births, missing pets, inability to care for pets, and identification of pets, this "system" grinds along every day without pause. When things don't go well -- stress, illness, behavior issues -- it is common for shelter staff, even those who are very compassionate and mean well, to blame the public. But it's not the public's fault, and it's time for shelter professionals to take responsibility for their actions, for the choices they make every day. Operating a shelter is a choice. Intaking animals is a choice. All that happens to those animals once in the shelter's custody is a choice. Will they receive vaccines and other necessary medical care? Will a photo and description be immediately posted online, giving the owner a chance to find them? Will rescue groups be contacted if the intake exceeds the shelter's ability to adopt?

Shelters implementing even one or two new best practices are seeing great improvements. Don't accept less. Don't make excuses. On World Animal Day, look right in front of you and ask yourself, "Are we doing what is best for these animals?" If not, seek out a new path, the path ahead.

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